Thomas Wictor

We never met in the rain on the last day of 1972

We never met in the rain on the last day of 1972

A bunch of people sent me this story by a B-52 pilot who was going to commit suicide out of guilt for bombing Vietnamese, but a beautiful woman saved his life by having coffee with him. Well, it didn’t happen. They never met. This is poorly written fiction.

I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972, the same day I resolved to kill myself.

One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I’d flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs. How many homes I destroyed, how many lives I ended, I’ll never know. But in the eyes of my superiors, I had served my country honorably, and I was thusly discharged with such distinction.

Air Force fixed-wing bomber pilots are always commissioned officers instead of enlisted men. Officers are separated, not discharged. The second paragraph thus reveals the story as false, written by someone who never served in the military.

And so on the morning of that New Year’s Eve, I found myself in a barren studio apartment on Beacon and Hereford with a fifth of Tennessee rye and the pang of shame permeating the recesses of my soul. When the bottle was empty, I made for the door and vowed, upon returning, that I would retrieve the Smith & Wesson Model 15 from the closet and give myself the discharge I deserved.

Here’s a Smith and Wesson Model 15, a .38-caliber revolver.

Model_15

That would do the job, assuming he was still conscious after drinking an entire fifth of rye.

By the time I reached the waterfront, a charcoal sky had opened and a drizzle became a shower. That shower soon gave way to a deluge. While the other pedestrians darted for awnings and lobbies, I trudged into the rain. I suppose I thought, or rather hoped, that it might wash away the patina of guilt that had coagulated around my heart. It didn’t, of course, so I started back to the apartment.

A coagulated patina? That’s unforgivable abuse of a thesaurus. A patina is a thin layer. Therefore a patina of guilt would mean barely any guilt, coagulated or not. How about “the brew of guilt that had coagulated around my heart?” It brings to mind “home brew,” so it’s a subtle way of blaming yourself for how you feel.

And then I saw you.

You’d taken shelter under the balcony of the Old State House. You were wearing a teal ball gown, which appeared to me both regal and ridiculous. Your brown hair was matted to the right side of your face, and a galaxy of freckles dusted your shoulders. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

When I joined you under the balcony, you looked at me with your big green eyes, and I could tell that you’d been crying. I asked if you were okay. You said you’d been better. I asked if you’d like to have a cup of coffee. You said only if I would join you. Before I could smile, you snatched my hand and led me on a dash through Downtown Crossing and into Neisner’s.

Here’s the balcony of the Old State House.

Old_State_House_Boston

It’s awfully high up to offer protection from a deluge. But the two now-happy young people ran down the street and into the Neisner Bros. lunch counter.

Bromfield_Street

Neisner’s was on Washington Street.

Neisner_Bros_Boston

So here’s how far they ran in the pouring rain.

Neisner's_Boston

He with a quart of rye whiskey sloshing around in his guts, and she in her shoulderless 1970s ball gown.

1970s_ball_gown

And her high heels.

1970s_high-heels_4

At the lunch counter, they talked and laughed like old pals.

After an hour or so, I excused myself to use the restroom. I remember consulting my reflection in the mirror. Wondering if I should kiss you, if I should tell you what I’d done from the cockpit of that bomber a week before, if I should return to the Smith & Wesson that waited for me. I decided, ultimately, that I was unworthy of the resuscitation this stranger in the teal ball gown had given me, and to turn my back on such sweet serendipity would be the real disgrace.

On the way back to the counter, my heart thumped in my chest like an angry judge’s gavel, and a future—our future—flickered in my mind. But when I reached the stools, you were gone. No phone number. No note. Nothing.

But he got married and lived happily ever after, until his wife died, and now he wants to hook up with the lady in the teal ball gown. If she existed, she’d be wise to avoid him like the plague, because he’s a liar.

The bombing missions that still haunt him were called Operation Linebacker II. Since he says that he’d flown his sorties a week before December 31, 1972, that would mean he flew the Christmas Eve missions. Remember what he said at the beginning?

One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I’d flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi.

Nope. The December 24 sorties hit Thai Nguyen and Kep, not Hanoi. And the December 23 raid also avoided Hanoi. Here’s another lie.

I dropped forty-eight bombs.

The B-52 Stratofortress payload was 86 or 108 bombs. Each model had twenty-four bombs on wing pylons, while the rest were carried internally.

B-52

According to the college student who wrote this pap, the sad B-52 pilot dropped twelve bombs on each of his four sorties. Twenty-seven American aircraft were shot down during Operation Linebacker II, including fifteen hugely expensive B-52s. Eight complete aircrews were lost. Each bomber had to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the enemy in order to justify the risk. Defensive armament was removed so that the bombers could carry more aerial munitions. The idea that one B-52 carried only twelve bombs is laughably moronic.

Finally, the fake bomber pilot said that he was discharged (separated) from the Air Force and back in Boston within a week. The B-52s used in Operation Linebacker II flew out of either U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, or Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Therefore the writer would’ve had to turn in all his gear, fill out the paperwork, wait for it to be approved, and then fly to an Air Force separation center in the continental US. The closest such center to Boston is Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro, North Carolina.

So the pilot mustered out of the air force, flew to North Carolina, was separated, made his way to Boston, and found a studio apartment, all in a week.

Impossible.

This little essay is slander and a form of stolen valor. Only military targets were bombed in Operation Linebacker II, so a real B-52 pilot wouldn’t have wondered how many homes he destroyed. Also, the North Vietnamese weren’t defenseless, pitiable children being killed for no reason.

The next morning, as the sun rose, curious Hanoi citizens surrounded the wreckage of two B-52s. Units from all over Vietnam sent congratulations, and General Nhan said that “a special feeling pervaded the various command headquarters, from the battalion to the general staff, from the northern rear area to southern battlefields. The Hanoi air defenses had stood up to America’s greatest weapon and had held its own; it had inspired the people and the Army.”

Communist Vietnamese are racist, ruthless killers. From 1955 to 1984, about 3.8 million Vietnamese died. The number of deaths spiked enormously twice: 1955 to 1964 and 1975 to 1984. Guess when the US had combat forces in Vietnam?

From 1965 to 1973.

The Republic of Vietnam surrendered to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975. My doctor is a Vietnamese boat person who came here as a child; his family had to flee because his father was a high-ranking naval officer. The Communists hunted and exterminated former members of the Republic’s armed forces.

fall_of_Saigon

There’s no question that American involvement in Vietnam saved millions of lives. The 53 ethnic minorities in Vietnam would tell you that if allowed to speak.

Among the most persecuted are the Montagnards, a largely Christian minority in Vietnam’s central highlands whose members have openly protested against land grabs and religious discrimination. Like the Hmong, the Montagnards may be targeted for repression in part because many of their parents and grandparents fought alongside American and South Vietnamese troops in the Vietnam war.

Any perceived minority challenges to Kinh hegemony are a “non-starter” for the government, says Stale Torstein Risa, a former Norwegian ambassador to Vietnam. The Communist Party of Vietnam considers ethnic minorities its top national-security priority, he argues, more important even than territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea, where Vietnam worries about Chinese encroachment.

“I Met You in the Rain on the Last Day of 1972” is mawkish poo. It was fun to debunk.

B-52_bomb_load

Update

A reader named Elo pointed out the weather in Boston on December 31, 1972.

Rain_in_Boston

Maybe the B-52 pilot and the green-eyed lady were only this tall.

Boston_wee_folk

In that case .7 inches (1.8 cm) of rain would be a deluge.

Update Two

The green-eyed lady has responded.

When I reached the waterfront, it began to rain, so I took refuge under the balcony of the Old State House. It was then that you interrupted my solace. You appeared pompous, yet aloof, completely absorbed in your unabashed self-confidence.

You were wearing a natty, all too tight uniform that somehow looked more appropriate for a child whom had grown out of his favourite clothes, yet was all too reluctant to let them go. I’d never seen anything so absurd, save for the late sixties generation of hippies.

Update Three

Kevin is very angry at me.

Angry_Kevin

Air Force officers are given a discharge, but they’re separated, not discharged.

Air_Force_separation

A patina may be an encrustation, but “a patina of guilt” is always used to mean a shadow, a vague feeling in the background.

Hey, look who’s number two on Google!

Patina_of_guilt

I taught myself the secrets of search-engine optimization (SEO) at the age of fifty-two, after my writing career was destroyed by a con artist named Mike Albee. Generally you can salvage something from even the most horrible of experiences.

Sure, a guy with a quart of rye whiskey in his system and woman wearing a ball gown and high heels could run several city blocks in the rain. But would they? If a drunk staggered up to you in the rain and belched out, “Hey! HEY! Wassa matta?! HUH? Yer purty!” would you grab his hand and run down the street with him?

I’m perfectly aware that Hanoi was bombed during Operation Linebacker II. Our fake pilot said that he flew four sorties on December 24, 1972. That was Day Seven.

Day_7_Operation_Linebacker_!!

Two real airmen were killed on Day Seven. I debunked this tripe for two reasons. One was to honor the memory of all fallen American warriors. I’ll tell you the second in a moment.

On Day Seven, only one wave of B-52s was sent in, and it didn’t bomb the city.

Day_7_Operation_Linebacker_II

As I said before, it bombed the railway yards, not homes.

The rest of your message doesn’t matter, Kevin, because the person who wrote “I Met You in the Rain on the Last Day of 1972” wasn’t a B-52 bomber pilot. He didn’t fly four sorties or drop forty-eight bombs. It’s perfectly clear that he’s a poseur.

That crappy little story is an affront on many levels. My own experiences have separated—or discharged—me from the world, so I occasionally find it annoying when everyone gushes over transparent fraudulence.

Sometimes I like to rub the world’s face in what it wants so desperately to avoid knowing about. That’s one of my many failings. I also hate lies. We live in a Golden Age of dishonesty, and I can’t stand it.

Anyway, Kevin, this really happened. Tell me what you think.

“We Met in the Supermarket in the Summer of 1992.


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